Before genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be brought to the market in the European Union (EU), they need to undergo a rigorous pre-market assessment as part of the approval procedures for their environmental release and marketing as food or feed under EU regulations. Besides the pre-market safety assessment, GMOs can also be subject to additional case specific post-marketing requirements based on risks identified during the pre-market assessment.
The case-specific post-market monitoring of genetically modified (GM) crops has, so far in practice, mainly focused on environmental monitoring of pest insect resistance development and impacts on non-target organisms in insect-resistant crops, for which the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) GMO Panel is currently developing extensive and detailed guidance. The pre-market safety assessments of GMO by the EFSA GMO Panel have thus far not identified any animal-feed-related safety risks. A few anecdotal accounts on possible impacts of GM crop consumption on domestic animals have appeared in the media but could not be confirmed.
Despite the abovementioned regulatory requirement for carrying out a post-market monitoring study on GM animal feeds in case the pre-market assessment has identified potential risks, there appears to be a lack in scientific studies into the potential linkage of whole GM or conventional feeds with the health of livestock in a way that could be applicable for this goal.
Marlon project aims to create an inventory of which epidemiological and monitoring initiatives exist, both within and outside the EU, which could provide useful data for the purpose of monitoring for health impacts of animal feeds, in particular those containing GM ingredients, on livestock animals. It will also collate, in a systematized manner, information on the factors that have to be considered when developing an epidemiological model specifically geared towards this purpose. These factors include:
1) the possibility to determine the exposure of animals to GM feed ingredients;
2) the health indicators that have to be considered for particular cases of health impacts identified during pre-market risk assessment of the GMOs;
3) the characteristics of the animal feed and livestock production chains. Marlon also will develop an epidemiological model specifically geared towards establishing links between measured health effects in livestock and their intake of GM ingredients from animal feed.
The Marlon project started on 1 August, 2012 and will run for 3 years. It has 11 project partners from 8 different countries.